Originally written for my Burn the Fat Inner Circle progress journal.
My nutritional approach
History. On December 21, 2005 (winter solstice), I made the crucial decision to heed the warning brought to me through the grief of my mother’s death the prior month from complications of diabetes. Because I was (& so far as I know, am) prediabetic, the first sources I went to in order to figure out how to follow through on that decision were sources about prediabetes & insulin resistance.
I’m not a great believer in doing everything with drugs — I knew that the best first thing for me to do was to revamp my diet & become more active with exercise — & I got lucky in the very first source I found on diabetes prevention: How to Prevent and Treat Diabetes with Natural Medicine by Michael T. Murray, N.D. and Michael R. Lyon, M.D. Besides learning a thing or two about the metabolic issues that lead to insulin resistance & eventually (unless it’s brought under control) diabetes, this book is where I first learned about the glycemic index (GI), which measures how quickly various carbohydrates turn into blood glucose. Thus, GI is also somewhat predictive of how much insulin will need to turn out in the blood to deal with the glucose. The upshot of it is: an insulin resistant person would be well advised to choose their carbs from the low glycemic end of the scale. Murray & Lyon also advised that insulin resistant people should snack between meals — healthy snacks, of course — in order to keep blood sugars level (& also to help prevent eating too much at regular meals).
As a result of reading this book & learning more about the glycemic index from websites & books specifically about GI, I pretty immediately threw out of my diet some of the bad habits I’d accumulated over my four decades of existence. No more vending machine food. No more boxed cereals. Indeed, very little boxed or prepackaged anything — refined carbs had to go. Instead: fruit (but not fruit juice), whole grains (but not too many of them), & lots & lots of nonstarchy vegetables.
When I ran into Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle in February 2006, Tom Venuto’s nutritional advice immediately made a great deal of sense to me, & what’s more, it pretty much squared with the best advice from Murray & Lyon & other people on the more enlightened end of diabetes prevention & treatment. (Note that I do not personally consider the American Diabetes Association as being among the “enlightened.”) Instead of three meals & a couple of healthy between meals snacks, simply turn them into five or six small meals — that made a great deal of sense to me. But even then I had a sense that the baseline diet of “50-55% carbs, 30% protein, and 15-20% fat” that Tom Venuto recommended on p. 149 seemed to me a little high on the carb end for a prediabetic. I didn’t want a low-carb, Atkins-style diet, because I wasn’t convinced they were all that healthy.
(Since then I’ve since met many diabetics online who swear by low-carb diets, especially that of Dr. Bernstein, but I’m still not entirely convinced. Besides, I find that if I personally eat too few carbs, I am too easily depressed. Since depression is already a lifelong issue with me, I’m not about to go down that path, thanks. BTW, I don’t use drugs for depression either, & never have. I’ve learned to deal with it in other ways, esp. through watching my stress levels, getting enough sleep, eating healthily, exercise, & often — just time alone.)
I floundered around for a bit figuring out just what my macronutrient ratios ought to be, until finally reading a book that had been, in fact, recommended to me on the night I made the decision to revamp my diet: The Schwarzbein Principle by Diana Schwarzbein. From whom I learned a heckuva lot about how insulin & other hormones — especially cortisol — function to put on the fat. Schwarzbein, in fact, refers to the adipose tissue around an insulin resistant person’s midriff as the “insulin meter.”
Although some classify Schwarzbein’s recommendations as “low carb,” I would characterize them as moderate carb. While I have some disagreement with her in regards to length of workout & also about which should come first, muscle building or fat loss, I’m very much on her side when it comes to dietary recommendations.
Basically, then, you could say that the nutritional approach I found that works best for me came out of a process of balancing between the best advice from doctors treating insulin resistant/diabetic people — Murray, Lyon, & Schwarzbein — with the best advice I could find from those I regard as the most experienced experts on fat loss & muscle gain — bodybuilders & personal trainers like Tom Venuto, & those who work with them, like John Berardi.
What I’m eating now. My standard eating approach, then, since about March or April 2006 is to eat five small meals per day, each meal comprising:
* About 20-25 grams of low glycemic carbohydrates.
* About the same amount of protein, including lots of fish — sardines, kippered herring, salmon, tuna. Also: chicken (white meat, usually boneless skinless chicken breasts), bison meat, & beans/legumes.
* Healthy fats — extra virgin olive oil, fish oils or the oils in the fish I’m already eating, occasionally flax seed or its oil, coconut oil, nuts & seeds.
* Lots & lots of nonstarchy vegetables.
I don’t really count carbs, or anything else, for that matter, though I did in early 2006. But I got to know how much was enough, & because I avoided packaged foods & mostly prepared my own food, I felt it was pretty successful. Even when I got offtrack somewhat, I have never yet gone back to the vending machines or packaged refined carbs that use to comprise the staples of my diet.
I will add that as of about a week ago, I’ve modified my diet a little by adding in a meal replacement drink, SlimStyles brand by the company Natural Factors. This is the first time I’ve used a meal replacement supplement, & so far results have been pretty good. This brand in particular because of another book by Michael Murray and Michael Lyon called Hunger Free Forever: The New Science of Appetite Control, which touts a proprietary superfiber called PGX (PolyGlycoplex) that has been clinically proven to promote satiation, reduce cravings, regulate blood glucose, & help obese people including those with diabetes & other forms of insulin resistance to successfully lose weight. SlimStyles meal replacement drinks are basically whey protein & PGX plus some other added nutrients. Now, I don’t particularly suffer from carb cravings myself, & because I eat lots of nonstarchy veggies & a fair amount of fruit, I have a pretty fibrous diet; the main effect of using these drinks for me has been to help me lower my caloric intake without causing me to feel too hungry. I use the drink to replace one, sometimes two meals, but continue to eat what I’ve come to call second breakfast, second lunch, and dinner.
Tweaking. As of fall 2006, when my exercise fell away, I was just getting set to tweak my diet further with the help of John Berardi & his Precision Nutrition program. Well, I haven’t done that yet, but in due course as I continue revitalizing my path towards health, I will. I need the time to read first. When it comes time to do that, I will probably also keep a food diary for a wee
or more & actually count up my calories & which of them come from which macronutrient category. But right now, I’m satisfied that I have a pretty reasonable & health eating style, & my efforts at the moment are mainly directed at getting my workouts well-integrated into my daily life.